Sales Clinic: Make Your Production Meeting Productive

Last month, I wrote that reprographics and wide-format printers probably don't hold enough staff meetings. I still think that's a significant contributing factor to the "communications gap" that keeps many printing firms from realizing their full profit potential.

"I don't disagree," a printer once told me. "But who has the time for all those meetings?"

Set an Agenda

The problem with most business meetings is not that they take time, it's that they waste time. The way to avoid that is to set—and follow!—an agenda. Another key is to hold every participant accountable for both timeliness and whatever preparation may be required.

One of my clients holds a very productive production meeting every morning. The meeting starts at 8:30 AM sharp. When he first started this practice about several years ago, getting started on time was a major issue. Everyone—including him—seemed to run into "situations" that delayed the start of the meeting. Often it wouldn't start until 9:00 AM, and typically three of the four regular participants would spend that half-hour "shooting the breeze" while waiting for the fourth.

I convinced my client that the solution to this problem started with leadership, and he made the commitment that he'd never be late for the meeting again. After a couple of weeks during which he was always ready to start the meeting on time, he found that his two key production people and his salesperson started to have fewer "situations" too. During that time, he also earned the credibility to hold these other people fully accountable for being on time.

Stand-Up Meeting

This "stand-up" meeting now typically lasts less than ten minutes. The agenda is very straightforward. First, the lead operator runs down the jobs that he expects to print that day, and where he expects each of those jobs to be in terms of printing, bindery, and/or other operations by the end of the day. He then reports on all of the jobs that have carried over from previous days. Next, the prepress lead reports on the jobs she's working on, specifically noting which ones she expects to send to the printer by the end of the day. After that, the owner either approves the daily plan, or directs changes based on his "big picture" understanding of customer needs and business priorities.

I'm sure you'll agree that this sounds like a pretty efficient meeting. Another of the keys to its success is that the fourth attendee—the salesperson—is not allowed to talk! For her, this meeting is intended to be purely informational. If she has any issues with the approved daily plan, she brings them up with the owner during the next meeting—a short daily discussion of her plans for the day. If the owner feels that her concerns justify changing the plan, he goes back to the lead operator and/or prepress lead himself after the conversation with the salesperson.

Next month: Sales meetings.